Padres use late power surge to force Game 3 against Cardinals

Fernando Tatis Jr. celebrates home run in Thursday's Wild Card playoff game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Petco Park.
(K.C. Alfred/The San Diego Union-Tribune)

The Padres came back again, perhaps as big as ever.

It seemed they were hardly going to be introduced in their first postseason party in 14 years.

Then they showed up with noisemakers to force a decisive third game in their Wild Card Series against the St. Louis Cardinals with an 11-9 victory Thursday night at Petco Park. It was the franchise’s first postseason win in five tries at the 16-year-old East Village ballpark.

Game 3 will be played just after 4 p.m. Friday (ESPN). The winner advances to play the Dodgers in the NL Division Series next week in Arlington, Texas.


“It was a really great game,” Fernando Tatis Jr. said. “What can I say? We feed (off) each other. We make the job done.”

Tatis and Wil Myers became the first pair of teammates to have two home runs in a postseason game since Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig in 1932, and the Padres became the first team ever to hit five home runs from the sixth inning on in a postseason game.

The five homers and 11 runs were franchise postseason records.

Tatis and Manny Machado hit back-to-back home runs in the sixth inning to tie a game the Padres trailed nearly from the start. They had, in fact, not even been tied beyond the top of the first inning in either game.

Myers followed with a line drive to the bricks at the base of the Western Metal building in the seventh to put the Padres ahead. Tatis’ two-run homer later in the inning extended the lead to 9-6.

With help from a Tatis throwing error, the Cardinals cut the deficit with two unearned runs off Drew Pomeranz in the eighth inning before Myers hit a two-run homer to center field in the bottom of the eighth.


St. Louis’ Paul Goldschmidt led off the ninth with a home run, and the Cardinals had runners at first and second with no outs before Trevor Rosenthal retired the next three batters.

It was the second time in 70 postseason games in which they have held a four-run lead that the Cardinals lost, and it was the biggest deficit the Padres had ever overcome in a postseason victory.

“We’ve been doing that all year,” Myers said. “… When your back is against the wall is sometimes when you play your best baseball.”

This team generally does.

In coming back from down 6-2 in the sixth inning, the team that came from behind in a major league-high 22 victories during the regular season continues its quest for the big cake at least one more day.

If they want it to extend into next week, they will need a miracle on a scale somewhere between safely juggling knives and walking on water.

The Padres might have to use a dozen pitchers Friday, as they brought just two healthy starters into the series and used nine of their 12 relievers over the past two games.

They will gladly try to navigate an improbable clincher.

Such is the task that manager Jayce Tingler expected a long night of he and his staff, along with those in baseball operations, mapping out various strategies.

Asked if the victory was as exciting as he had ever experienced, Tingler replied, “It may be for the next five, 10 minutes Then honestly, it’s getting ready for tomorrow. … That’s where our head is at now.”

With their offense again recognizable, the Padres can at least be expected to put up a fight.

“They’ve been great all year,” Myers said of the bullpen. “We’ll be behind them with our bats ready.”

Before Tatis’ three-run line drive into the left-field seats, the Padres were 1-for-8 with runners in scoring position Thursday and 2-for-13 in the series.

Tatis had been 0-for-4 with runners in scoring position, making outs twice in each game.

The phenom struggling was one of multiple ways in which a fantastic season seemed on the brink of fizzling.

But not much in the past two days had been like the two months before it.

It was announced before the series began Wednesday that Mike Clevinger and Dinelson Lamet were not available due to the arm ailments that prompted them to leave their previous starts. Lamet finished third in the NL with a 2.09 ERA. Clevinger was acquired at great cost at the trade deadline to be atop the rotation.

Chris Paddack allowed four runs in the first inning in Game 1. Zach Davies on Thursday would allow one run in the first inning and three in the second.

A franchise postseason record seven relievers were used to cover the final 6 2/3 innings Wednesday. Eight pitched in relief of Davies.

The Padres scored two runs in the fourth inning, but even that felt defeating as they loaded the bases with no outs and then loaded them again with one.

Tatis and Machado struck out with runners at first and second to end the third inning.

It seemed it would be an ugly way for one of the majors’ best teams in 2020 to have its sizzle snuffed out.

But then the 21-year-old who has provided so many moments and seemingly endless energy in his two short seasons in the majors started the Padres on their way back from the exit.

It was Tatis who said in July, “We’re aiming for the big cake.”

Tatis, who yawned at least once while waiting in the on-deck circle for St. Louis reliever Giovanny Gallegos to finish his warm-up pitches, then turned on a slider to drill a 377-foot wake-up call. After doing so, he turned to the dugout and pumped his fists as he essentially jumped down the first base line.

“I feel like we needed that big swing for the entire team to get us going,” he said. “We’d been missing a lot with runners in scoring position. I felt whoever did it first, we were going to feed off that.”

Tatis, whose reaction to home runs have become as must-see as the hits themselves, flipped his bat a good 20 feet before his second homer had even cleared the right-field wall.

“We’re in the playoffs,” Tatis said. “The game was not done. The job was not done. … There was a lot of game left. I was wanting to keep motivating my teammates, to let them know to keep going.”


10:05 p.m. Oct. 1, 2020: This story was updated with Friday’s game time set.

9:38 p.m. Oct. 1, 2020: This story was updated with postgame quotes and further reporting.